The disciplinary divide between classics and modern literary studies sets up an artificial boundary, which can obscure our view both of what poets are doing and of how they perceive their role. Such compartmentalisation is alien to the bilingual cultures of Renaissance Europe, where Latin was still a medium for prolific literary composition, and where ancient texts rediscovered and edited by humanist scholars appeared in print with the shock of the new. Though acutely aware of the historical distance between themselves and the ancients, educated readers and writers also experienced a sense of paradoxical contemporaneity with classical authors, often expressed through the common trope whereby an ancient poet is imagined as raised from the dead through imitation or translation, or present as friend and teacher in the pages of their books. The trope may seem naively ahistoricist, but the ‘revival’ of Anacreon in the verse of Herrick and Stanley’s royalist coterie during the English Civil War illustrates how central it can be to the poet’s engagement with contemporary politics, and thus to a fully responsive historicist reading. Petrarch, with his letters to the ancients, is often seen as the origin of the period’s uncanny sense of intimacy with classical ghosts, but he was joining a conversation consciously begun by Seneca. Senecan intertextuality also pervades the ‘Ascent of Mont Ventoux’ more deeply than has been recognised, suggesting that the extent even of Petrarch’s engagement with classical writers has been underestimated.
This chapter examines the revivification of the figure of Julius Caesar in three early modern responses to Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile, avoiding an overtly political reading of Lucan to trace instead an intimate conversation between classical poet, early modern translators and imitators. Starting with Lucans First Booke – a translation that presents as blood-transfusion – I show how Marlowe’s reanimation of Caesar as a Roman Tamburlaine enables the anti-hero to escape the bounds of Lucan’s censoriously moralising and fractured poem. Turning next to the anonymously authored academic drama The Tragedie of Caesar and Pompey, or Caesar’s Revenge, we find the full articulation of a Caesar who fulfils and exceeds this Marlovian potential, and an author who runs the attractions to negative repetition in Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile to their natural endpoint: dissolution of the cosmos and the complete confusion of its moral eschatology. The chapter concludes by analysing the destabilising effects of such a revivification of Caesar for both poem and author, via close reading of Thomas May’s 1627 Pharsalia; and in the same author’s attempts both to kill Caesar and ‘end’ Lucan in his 1630 Continuation. The multiple iterations of May’s translation and supplement enact the struggle to resist the super-charged early modern Caesar and Lucan’s unresolved, repetitive poetics alike: and May can accomplish his task in the end only by succumbing to Lucan’s regressive poetics of repetition, adopting early modern tragedy's politics of personal vengeance, and appropriating for his own authorial self the blood-transfusion metaphor of Lucans First Booke.
The chapter presents a brief overview of the various interpretations and definitions of melodrama, reflecting on the term’s associations with music, excessive emotions and the centrality of the female body, and arguing for a more complex understanding of the melodramatic mode, liberating it from the common criticism of triviality and stylistic excess. The examples range from a so-called woman’s film from the 1930s, which foregrounds the female sacrifice and thus centralises the moral teaching embedded within the Shakespearean text, through a British social melodrama from the post-war period, where the moral issues are interconnected with racial anxieties. Another melodramatic adaptation from the 1990s, set in the Midwestern farmlands, emphasises the genre’s associations with feminism, particularly ecofeminism. The last section of the chapter argues that the melodramatic features of the Bollywood film industry show many similarities with the Western iterations of melodrama, and, with the help of a British-Asian melodramatic adaptation, exemplifies the generic hybridity characterising this particular diasporic film market.
The chapter presents the most common arguments behind the recent revival of the subgenres of horror featuring undead characters, particularly vampires or zombies. It also looks at the historical development of the representation of the cinematic undead, pointing out the symptomatic changes that clearly set these post-millennial creatures apart from the classic variants. Focusing on several examples of vampire Shakespeare adaptations, the chapter comments on possible reasons why only a few specific source texts are predominantly adapted into horror films. It is also noted that the majority of the films examined within the chapter are comic adaptations, with one notable exception; some of them are low-budget, even amateur, productions, although the films with lower production qualities are no less creative in their appropriation of the Shakespearean dramatic texts. Most films within the group display clear self-reflexive features, and they are also characterised by melancholy or nostalgia for the past. The chapter also observes similarities between the way teen films and undead horror adaptations deal with the source text’s authority, emphasising the generational connections between the groups. Several critical connections among Shakespeare criticism, adaptation studies and the undead are also presented.
The chapter discusses the best-known biographical films featuring William Shakespeare as a character, rather than as author of the source text. Like teenpics and undead horror films, the biopic is not a new genre, but its popularity underwent a spectacular revival during the 1990s. Another similarity between the three genres can be noticed in their tendency to undermine the Bard’s textual and cultural authority, and the way they employ fragmented quotations in anachronistic and ahistorical ways, in line with the postmodern era’s predilection for pastiche. All biopics discussed are based on scholarly interpretations of some aspects of Shakespeare’s life and oeuvre, from a Freudian understanding of authorial inspiration, through a theory of the syphilitic Shakespeare, to the Oxfordian theory of authorship. Most of these films can also be seen as generic hybrids, mixing the biopic’s conventions with elements of the romantic comedy, the thriller or television edutainment. At the same time, they also illustrate the genre’s tendency to be rooted in two historical eras, authenticating their narratives with historical references to the early modern era, including several literary authors from the age, while attracting the interests of millennial and post-millennial audiences with the use of contemporary visual or thematic elements.
The chapter analyses six Shakespeare adaptations that display elements of the western genre. The chronological arrangement of the films highlights the socio-historical context of their original production, from the optimistic post-war western’s belief in progress and reconstruction, through the psychologically inflected 1950s films’ anxieties about the moral dissolution within the family sphere, to a comic variant from the 1960s. From the late 1960s, a so-called spaghetti western exemplifies the formula’s renewed vitality in European filmmaking, and the chapter ends with a 1970s road movie displaying the influence of revisionist westerns. The analyses comment on the use of the western’s iconography and narrative formulas, and several core themes and concerns of the genre are also discussed, including the significance of the frontier in the American imagination, the Wild West’s paradoxical representations as garden or desert and the controversial interpretations of tradition versus progress. The analyses also highlight a number of subtle changes in the characteristic gender roles within the western, showing how the seemingly clichéd, often marginalised, female roles exemplify broader social concerns and trends.
This chapter examines print and manuscript tracts and treatises on Anglo-Scottish union, especially the writings of Francis Bacon and David Hume of Godscroft. These texts offer fertile evidence of both English and Scottish subjects thinking through, articulating and redefining a British, indeed British-Irish, polity. This chapter breaks new ground by exploring connections between Bacon’s political, philosophical and scientific writings within the context of a proposed union; in doing so it captures the boldness and vibrancy of Jacobean responses to the dominant political topic. Bacon’s political writings on union, so often dismissed by scholars as the product of a sycophant, emerge from this chapter as a laboratory for thought about early modern notions of collective identities and cultural hybridity. Concluding this chapter with Bacon's writing on the Ulster plantation – with a cursory glance at Jonson’s Irish Masque – I warn against a too-optimistic recovery of his and others’ seemingly progressive political ideas. Like many of his fellow Jacobeans, including Hume and Robert Pont, Bacon’s views on the native Irish (as well as non-Lowland Scots) are underpinned by deep ethnic and racial prejudices.
The conclusions examines contemporary writing on the idea of ‘Britain’ and tries to verify the accuracy of biased accounts. It also examines the use of terminology in referring to ‘the isle’ and how this ties into appeasing certain monarchs through the late Tudor and early Stewart periods.